Too soon to gauge impact of Republican health care plan in Iowa

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG TV9)- Should some version of the House of Senate Republican health care bill pass, what would happen to Medicaid recipients or those who purchase individual health care policies in Iowa?

Dr. Peter Damiano, director of the University of Iowa's Public Policy Center.

Researchers at the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center have analyzed health care questions like that before.

But director Dr. Peter Damiano says it’s too early to make any calls yet because there’s not enough information.

Expanded Medicaid under Obamacare brought new coverage to about 150,000 Iowans. Another 50,000 or so have used Affordable Care Act subsidize to purchase individual health policies on the health care market.

Dr. Damiano says those are the Iowans with the most at stake in the health care debate.

“Whether the subsidy will be retained so people can buy insurance through the exchange and the subsidy that is there for the out-of-pocket costs. Those are the things threatened,” he said.

Dr. Damiano sees the biggest change, in the House and Senate Republican bills, as the government eventually picking up a smaller portion of the costs of Medicaid coverage for states.

In that case, he sees an increase in Iowans unable to afford health insurance and dropping out.

He says smaller, rural Iowa hospitals could see an outsized budget impact as their patients typically rely more on Medicaid coverage.

“There are a number of studies that looked at what the House plan would be and it definitely over impacts rural areas because many rural hospitals are dependent on Medicaid. Medicaid is often thought of just for poor people, and it is for lower income, but two thirds or even three fourths of the money is for people in nursing homes or on disability,” he said.

Researchers at the university’s Public Policy Center believe the report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that would outline the costs and savings with the Republican Senate plan should come out sometime early next week.